Rivers of Nihil/Black Crown Initiate/Møl/Orbit Culture

The Dome, London. 2 October 2019.

Considering the show is starting early on a weeknight, there is still a generous crowd gathering for Swedish death metal troupe ORBIT CULTURE who are opening the show. Their riffs thump enough to get the audience in the mood for a night of blistering metal. However, it’s not until the band play new single Nensha that things start to get interesting. Once the band get more material and live experience under their belts then maybe they will have more of an impact.

It’s reassuring to see so many members of the audience wearing MØL tshirts tonight. Knowledge of their stunning live show has been spreading and there are many curious onlookers this evening. Front man Kim Song Sternkopf has not lost an ounce of his power and energy on this mammoth tour and is as captivating as ever. Screaming every word with such passion and intensity is incredibly moving as a spectator. A short spell in the crowd enables some fans to scream along with Sternkopf and everyone wants part of the action. The band play tracks from their debut album Jord – with the blackgaze sounding as equally superb and moving in the live setting. Guitarist Nicolai Busse Hansen is the contemplative counterpart to Sternkopf’s fiery persona, and the guitar notes shimmer over the crowd. Their live show is quickly becoming legendary. Surely we are due a MØL headline tour next?

After MØL stunned us into silence, it’s the turn of progressive death metal heavyweights BLACK CROWN INITIATE to pummel us into submission. Driving fans wild by playing the majority of their debut EP Song of the Crippled Bull and other older gems, the crowd were going fanatic! New song Years in Frigid Light sounds immense live and was lapped up gratefully by fans. Bassist Nick Shaw and guitarist Ethan McKenna spend the set flexing their faces making damn-good-riff expressions while drummer Sam Santiago proves he might possibly be an actual machine. Andy Thomas amazed with his impeccable voice, while front man James Dorton sounds as colossal live as he does on record, his penetrating growls commanding the crowd. With their long-awaited new album rearing its head soon, you can expect to see more (hopefully) from these prog death titans.

It’s been an epic night so far with MØL and BLACK CROWN INITIATE providing headline-worthy sets. RIVERS OF NIHIL had hard acts to follow but, my word, they were phenomenal! Listening to last album Where Owls Know My Name in full is always a treat, but hearing it in full live…? Nothing short of sublime. Throw in numerous spots by a real life sax man (a headbanging one at that) and you’ve got yourself an other-worldly experience. Front man Jake Dieffenbach is extremely striking in his unusual attire but his roars are formidable. With extremely brutal circle pits and a wall of death, the crowd were running riot. Being one member short tonight (guitarist Jon Topore was unfortunately in hospital) didn’t deter the band from delivering one of the tightest sets I’ve seen all year. After selling out The Dome and getting the whole venue moving, it won’t be long before RIVERS OF NIHIL sell out bigger venues. Watch this space.

Despised Icon + Malevolence + Archspire + Vulvodynia

The Dome, London. 11 February 2018.

We’re only two months into 2018 and we’re already being spoilt with what could be the line-up of the year. A night of brutal metal awaits. Filled with slam fans, technical metalheads, hardcore lads and old school deathcore lovers, The Dome at Tufnell Park welcomes all punters and tonight it does feel like the perfect venue to host these stellar bands.

The room was almost full for opening band VULVODYNIA; ultimately one of the biggest crowds for an opening band seen for a long while. This is reassuring to see as the up-and-coming slamming brutal death metal group (and super nice chaps too) rightly deserve a large crowd, especially as they’ve travelled all the way from South Africa and we don’t see them enough! Circle pits immediately erupt as the band perform in front of the gory backdrop of the album cover for Psychosadistic Design. The eerie stage and lighting set the mood for their unforgiving show. Headbanging and windmilling while the drums and guitars threaten to pummel us into the ground, frontman Duncan Bentley is a mass of hair and underworldly vocals. VULVODYNIA had a lot of fans in the crowd tonight as Bentley only needed to say the last song was the first song the band ever wrote together, for the crowd to start chanting “DROWNED. IN. VOMIT!” Needless to say no one actually drowned in vomit, but we were at risk of drowning in other people’s sweat, and it was only the first band of the night! A fantastically chaotic start to the evening.

Metalmance has always been curious to see how ARCHSPIRE’s impressive technical death metal translates live. Opening with Calamus Will Animate, the machine-gun vocals unfortunately weren’t phased in fast enough, denying the crowd of the sudden brutal impact the band is well known for. Nevertheless, the Canadians proved to be an impressive force, expertly delivering their technical tunes with an irresistible flair. It is clear each member of the band is an extremely talented musician; almost to the point you become concerned the complexity would detract from their joy of performing, but no need to worry as they all look absolutely thrilled. None more so than frontman Oliver Rae Aleron, whose unique vocals are shot out of a mischievous grin. The diction could be a little clearer but this is to be expected in a live setting. The mix gradually improves during the set and by the time ARCHSPIRE close with Remote Tumour Seeker, the sound is spot on and the riff grooves harder than ever. Don’t be surprised if the next time ARCHSPIRE play the UK they’re headlining a whole tour.

Up next are Sheffield bruisers MALEVOLENCE. Last time Metalmance had the pleasure of witnessing the group tearing up a stage was last June when they headlined this very venue. And now they are supporting their heroes; “We’ve been fans of DESPISED ICON since we were *this* high!” claims frontman Alex Taylor. The band seem more relaxed at this show than last time, they were in good spirits and seemed to be buzzing about playing in this line-up tonight. They completely owned the stage and their fans owned the pit. Playing a lot of songs from last year’s blistering Self Supremacy, MALEVOLENCE are an untouchable team of brutality. If you’re not stomping along to their grooves, then you’re shouting along with guitarist Konan Hall to Slave to Satisfaction, Wasted Breath and Serpents Chokehold. With stage divers and fists in the air, this is exactly where you want to be on a cold and dreary Sunday night. MALEVOLENCE are a family and they always make their fans feels as much too. This, coupled with their monstrous anthems make the band truly unstoppable and it still only feels like the beginning.

Finally, the pioneers of deathcore grace the stage; DESPISED ICON are here to show the young ‘uns how it’s really done. The mix for the band was incredible with the vocals of dual vocalists Alex Erian and Steve Marois sounding crystal clear and resonating to devastating effect. Listening to classics such as Day of Mourning, Furtive Monologues and Retina, it’s easy to hear how DESPISED ICON have influenced countless of bands including tonight’s supports. They oozed professionalism and confidence, yet remained humbled by the crowd’s response and participation. A great band with a sickeningly impressive back catalogue, DESPISED ICON reminded everyone tonight of why they are still well respected in the scene. Smashing through songs from latest album Beast, including the punishing Inner Demons, the group prove they are still relevant and pack a greater punch than the majority of their peers. One thing’s for sure, tonight has set the bar high for the rest of the gigs in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Earl.